Education figures denounce the “censorship” of anti-capitalism in new educational orientations

“It’s laughable to put talking about alternatives to capitalism on an equal footing with racism.”

Youth organizations and democracy activists have denounced new educational advice for schools in England, which critics say risk censoring left-wing perspectives.

A coalition of organizations and activists have written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to challenge new guidelines on relationships and sex education (CSR) released last week.

The DfE Plan your relationship, sex and health program document urges schools not to use resources produced by organizations that take “extreme political positions”. Examples cited by the Department of Education include “a publicly declared desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism or end free and fair elections,” SchoolsWeek reported.

Now, a letter coordinated by Shout Out UK, an educational platform and social enterprise that works with young people, warns that the new focus risks creating a culture of censorship.

The 31 signatories include the Association for Citizenship Teaching, the Center for Education and Youth, Young Citizens, as well as progressive activists including LGBT + activist Peter Tatchell and Compass director Neal Lawson.

It is not known how many schools rely on explicitly anti-capitalist resources in teaching CSR.

The Association for Socialist Education said it was “strange” that a document claiming to be on guidance for implementing CSR “suddenly rushes into diktats about the dangers of exposing children to material “promoting extreme political positions, adding:” What is the government trying to achieve? ” The guidelines were seen as yet another plank in the government’s “culture war” against “culture cancellation”, lack of platform and trans issues.

In response to a question from Left foot forwardKeir Starmer spokesman said: “Gavin Williamson should stop looking for cheap stocks and start sorting out the crises he has overseen in his department.”

Matteo Bergamini, CEO and Founder of Shout Out UK, told LFF: “I am proud to lead a coalition of organizations in the fields of political education and democracy promotion in response to the latest CSR guidelines. It is laughable to put talking about alternatives to capitalism on an equal footing with racism. Learning alternatives strengthens positive debate and democracy. Censorship doesn’t solve anything.

Full letter

Dear Mr. Williamson,

We are writing this joint open letter as a coalition of organizations in the political education and democracy promotion sectors to voice our concerns regarding the Department’s guidance on Relationships, Gender and Gender Education. health (RSE) published on Thursday, September 24, 2020.

We acknowledge that this guide was issued to schools in the context of CSR, and not within the framework of the PSHE in which it is found, but we are nonetheless concerned about the precedent that this could set for other aspects of the program and the impact this might have on teachers’ confidence to cover political topics.

The guide states that: “Schools should not in any way use resources produced by organizations that take extreme political positions on issues”, and provides a non-exhaustive list of examples. Our concerns revolve around this point in particular.

As advocates of expanding access to education on political issues, we implore the government to consider that this regulation has the potential to censor the already minimal discussion of politics in schools. Guidelines serve to deny students the opportunity to engage with material from “extreme” sources in a classroom environment, preventing informed debate and discouraging critical thinking.. Political education continues to be inadequate or completely absent for most students in the UK; we want to make sure that any window of opportunity to discuss policy is as wide as possible.

With respect to these guidelines, which are non-statutory implementation guidelines, we seek urgent clarification on the following:

  1. How should schools facilitate a sufficiently diverse dialogue on topics within the CSR program without limiting themselves unnecessarily for fear that the resources they wish to use could be interpreted as being in violation of the guidelines?
  2. Can the Department assure educators that these strict restrictions will not be extended to other subjects in the arts, humanities and social sciences, leaving schools free to continue teaching a range of ideas and perspectives? challenged without fear of recrimination?
  3. Can schools continue to work with civil society organizations and education providers who embrace open dialogue and diversity of thought and draw on their resources to achieve a nuanced approach to complex social and political topics? .

Students should be armed with political and media literacy skills to ensure that they can understand and discuss political issues with a critical mindset. “Extreme” political organizations will exist whether or not schools are allowed to discuss them in class, but this orientation deprives students of the opportunity to confront them head-on. Politics requires dialogue and the continuous contestation of ideas. Schools should be a safe place for this to happen without fear of recrimination or censorship.

Signed by

  1. Matteo Bergamini, CEO and Founder of Shout Out UK
  2. Kate Harris, CEO and Co-Founder of VotesforSchools
  3. Caroline Hunt, spokesperson for equal education, Women’s Equality Party
  4. Tom Franklin, CEO, Young Citizens
  5. Harriet Andrews, Director, The Politics Project
  6. Klina Jordan, Co-CE, Make Votes Matter (as an individual)
  7. Tom de Grunwald, Co-Founder, Forward Democracy
  8. Ayesha Garrett, Director, Sortition Foundation.
  9. Mete Coban, my life my opinion
  10. Greg Sanderson, Smart School Boards
  11. Keith Garrett, leader of the Democracy Restart Party
  12. Peter Dunphy, Director, Unite to Reform
  13. Dr James Weinberg, political scientist, University of Sheffield (as an individual)
  14. Dr Andrew Mycock, University of Huddersfield
  15. Matilda Lawrence-Jubb, Director, Split Banana
  16. Sarah Matthews, Director, Sortition Foundation
  17. Philipp Verpoort, Director, Sortition Foundation
  18. David Jubb, Director, Sortition Foundation
  19. Tom Lord, Project Manager, Sortition Foundation
  20. Anna Alexander, Director, Split Banana
  21. Molly Scott Cato, Professor of Green Economics, University of Roehampton
  22. Steve Williams, Educational Advisor, Former Principal and Inspector of Schools
  23. XR Citizens’ Assembly Working Group
  24. Neal Lawson, compass
  25. Liz Moorse, Executive Director, Association for Citizenship Education
  26. Loic Menzies, Director General, Center for Education and Youth
  27. Shelley Metcalfe, Founder and Director, The Digital Life Skills Company /
  28. Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
  29. Professor Matthew Flinders, Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Center, University of Sheffield
  30. Emily Evans, Executive Director of The Economist Educational Foundation
  31. John McGowan, General Secretary, Union of Social Workers

The views expressed in this letter represent those of the signatories and not necessarily those of their organizations or employers.

Josias Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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